The National Investigation Agency (NIA) court also directed the NIA to state in its affidavit that the prosecution would not be relying on any documents other than those for which hard disks have been given to the accused.
ON Monday, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court of special judge Rajesh Kataria directed the NIA to file an affidavit stating that it has provided cloned copies of seized electronic evidence to the accused persons in the Bhima Koregaon–Elgar Parishad Maoist links and criminal conspiracycase.
The plea is for the NIA to comply with Section207 (supply of a copy of the police report and other documents to the accused) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
During the previous hearings, the accused persons had raised the grievance that despite filing several applications with the investigating authorities under Section 207 of the CrPC, they had not been allowed access to the compact disks which are an important piece of evidence furnished by the NIA in the case.
OnSeptember 5, theNIA court had directed the NIA to comply with the Order of the predecessor judge of the NIA court, dated May 23, 2022, that had directed the agency to furnish a chart consisting of the details of electronic devices seized in the case to be supplied to accused persons.
Today, special public prosecutor Shrikant Sonkawade, appearing for the NIA, provided the accused persons with annexures of electronic evidence from the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory, Pune.
Sonkawade claimed that the accused persons have been provided with all cloned copies.
Contesting this claim, the counsels representing the accused persons argued that the seized electronic evidence failed to match with the copies of the hard disks provided to them.
The counsels for the accused also submitted that the NIA did not comply with the previous Order of the court in providing a chart of the details of the seized electronic evidence.
Sonkawade maintained that since all the evidence was supplied to the accused, there was no need to provide a chart.
Notably, the court directed the NIA to file an affidavit declaring that the prosecution would not be relying on any electronic evidence other than those copies of which have been provided to the accused on hard disks.
The NIA is required to submit the affidavit on the next date of hearing, that is, October 5.
In connection with the Elgar Parishad–Bhima Koregaon case, on June 6, 2018, Pune police arrested several activists, lawyers and academics.
These included human rights lawyer and Dalit rights activist, Surendra Gadling; Dalit rights activist and editor of the Marathi magazine Vidrohi, Sudhir Dhawale; activist and researcher, and member of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, Rona Wilson.
Former head of the English department at Nagpur University, and Dalit and women’s rights activist, Shoma Sen; and forest rights activist and former fellow of Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship Programme of the Union Ministry of Rural Development, Mahesh Raut were also arrested.
On August 28, 2018, activist, poet, writer and teacher Dr P. Varavara Rao; trade unionist, activist and lawyer,Sudha Bharadwaj; Arun Ferreira; trade unionist, activist and academic, Vernon Gonsalves; and human rights activist and journalist, Gautam Navlakha were arrested and lodged in Mumbai’s Taloja jail.
In the subsequent months, scholar, writer and civil rights activist, DrAnand Teltumbde; tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest, Father Stan Swamy; an anti-caste activist, Hany Babu; and musical performers, anti-caste activists and members of the cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch, Sagar Gorkhe, Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jagtap, were also arrested.
Trial is yet to begin in the Bhima Koregaon case. The prosecution in the case has filed a chargesheet exceeding 5,000 pages and intends to cross-examine at least 200 witnesses.
Ten of the16 accused persons are presently incarcerated, having now spent two to almost five years in judicial custody without trial.
In addition to Gonsalves and Ferreira, who were granted bail on July 28, three of the other accused persons, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao and Anand Teltumbde have also managed to secure bail so far.
Another accused, tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy,passed away in judicial custody in July 2021 after contracting Covid in prison while awaiting bail on medical grounds.
An investigation by Arsenal Consulting, a leading, independent expert firm on digital forensics, has revealed that sophisticated malware was used to plant the digital evidence that forms the basis for the prosecution’s case on the devices of two of the accused persons in the case, Surendra Gadling and Rona Wilson.